A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday convicted and sentenced three women, Precious Owoh, Blessing Gabriel and Rose Gabriel to seven years imprisonment each for engaging in human trafficking.
The judge handed down the verdict after he found them guilty of a four-count charge of recruiting, trafficking, exporting, promoting and facilitating the prostitution of one Udeogu Ann Ugochi, 27 years, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The convicts: Owoh, also known as Ejiro, Gabriel, also known as Precious, and Gabriel were arraigned before the court in October 2015 by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
The three convicts who are residents of 15, Adewunmi Adeogesun Street, Ajah, Camp 4, Block 10, Room 7, Ojo Military Cantonment, Ojo, all in Lagos State, were alleged to have committed the act with one Otubo Nicole, who is said to be at large, between October 2014 and July, 2015.
The offences according to NAPTIP are contrary to and punishable under Sections 13(1)(2)(b), 13(4)(a)(c), 14(b) and 18 of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
The convicts had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were accordingly admitted to bail on different terms, but the first and second convicts, Precious and Blessing were unable to perfect their bail. .
During the course of their trial, the prosecution called four witnesses, who include: the victim, Udeogu Ann Ugochi, and three intelligence officers of the agency.
The victim, during the trial had told the court how she was contacted by the third convict, at the instance of the second convict, who linked her up with the first convict, whom she said had contacted the second convict to recruit for her illicit profession.
She also told the court how the first convict paid for her trip to Dubai, and on getting to Dubai, how she introduced her to prostitution.
Ugochi also told the court that before departing Nigeria to Dubai, she was made to believe that she would be engaging in a vocational job only to be introduced into prostitution on getting to Dubai.
She also told the court how the first convict subjected her to all sorts of inhuman treatment, for failing to do her biddings in the unwholesome profession.
She had also told the court how she contacted her sister in Nigeria for return ticket when she could no longer bear the terms given to her by the first convict.
Ugochi said her sister sent her money for a return ticket, and that upon her arrival, she was arrested at the Airport and taken to the NAPTIP office for interrogation, which led to the arrest of the convicts.
Also, all the other witnesses narrated the roles played by each of them in the arrest of the convicts, and how they investigated them.
The trial judge, Justice Kuewumi held in her judgment that, “from the totality of the evidence of the prosecution, I am satisfied that the prosecution has successfully proven its case against all the defendants.
“Consequently, the first and second, defendants are guilty of count one, two, three and four. While the third defendant is guilty of only count one and two but discharged and acquitted of count three and four.”
Following the verdict, lawyer to the convicts, Oke Ojakove, in his allucutor, pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy, as the convicts are first time offenders.
He said, “I plead for leniency, they are first time offenders, they have learnt their lesson bitterly and they are mothers of very little kids”.
Ojakovo, also urged the court to give the convicts a reformatory sentence in accordance with Section 416(2)(b) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act ACJA, 2015. And that the court should consider the time they have spent in detention.
He further urged the court to impose a fine option instead of a custodian sentence.
After listening to the lawyer, Justice Kuewumi held, “I have listened to the allucutors of the counsel to the convicts, the offence of trafficking in persons is a very serious offence, it has affected the image of the country internationally, consequently, the first and second convicts are hereby sentence to two years in count one, and five years in count two, three and four. And the third convict is hereby sentenced to two and five years on count one and two only”.
Justice Kuewumi however awarded the sum of N250, 000, for count one and N1 million as option for count two, three and four, for each of the convicts.
The judge also ordered that the jail terms are to run concurrently.
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